Data center automation immensely valuable: Krithiwas Neelakantan, NetApp

NetApp offers hybrid cloud data services for management of applications and data across cloud and on-premises environments. Here, Krithiwas Neelakantan, Director, Next Gen Data Center and Cloud, NetApp, talks about the emerging trends for data center networking, and more. Excerpts from an interview:


DQ: What are the five emerging trends for data center networking in 2020?

Krithiwas Neelakantan: Some of the emerging trends to look out for datacenter networking include:

Hybrid IT deployments: Data centers will deploy more hybrid cloud architecture and multi-cloud solutions, allowing companies to take advantage of the power of public cloud computing while enjoying the security of a private network. Hybrid cloud architecture will store data in a private network while also establishing connections to a public cloud service. This architecture allows companies to protect and control their data while still using it in a public cloud environment.

Hyperscale data centers: While the demand for cloud services continue their momentum, there will be massive investments towards the construction of more data center facilities.

Data centre automation: Moving forward, enterprises will focus on increasing their agility and operational efficiency. Data center automation through software solutions will ensure that the growing demand for data and the speed at which businesses operate today will not be put at risk which could have been a possibility due to manual troubleshooting and monitoring

AI services: AI’s potential in the data center is nearly limitless, and we have only scratched the surface. Increased adoption of AI will enable data centers to meet the most challenging SLAs, bring down operation costs, protect uptime – and even ensure better client servicing by reducing the number of incidents that require escalation.

Operation excellence and cost optimization: With huge dependency on a diversified IT environment, data center operation teams are ensuring that critical applications run smoothly without impacting business. Managing a skilled workforce with an automated maintenance of data center management will be key trend moving forward.

Data platform innovation: Organizations will invest heavily in storage resources required to accommodate the data deluge which is happening today. The advent of 5G and IoT devices will be a catalyst for storage technology innovation

DQ: How is the market now for adoption of hybrid cloud and datacenter virtualization?

Krithiwas Neelakantan: Today, customers are looking towards increased agility and automation from their IT service providers. Hybrid multi-cloud solutions are the way forward when to comes to deployment of services because of the primary benefit of agility and the need to adapt and change direction quickly as a core principle of a digital business. Enterprises need to combine public clouds, private clouds, and on-premises resources to gain the agility they need for a competitive advantage.

With hybrid cloud, the days of silos and months of provisioning time are over – private clouds are responding at the speed of the public cloud. Advantage comes with creating a hybrid cloud infrastructure based on frictionless consumption, self-service, automation, programmable APIs, and infrastructure independence. This advantage ensures customers can unleash agility and latent abilities in their own organizations to thrive with data.

With the unprecedented demand for data, enterprises who have begun their cloud journey will automatically opt for server virtualization. Going forward, more than half of organizations plan to use storage virtualization and application virtualization by 2021. Application virtualization is predicted to jump from 39% now to 56% by then. We will see a fully virtualized software-defined data center architecture, that will play a key role in provisioning of IT resources and applications and make them available for consumption.

At NetApp, we enable organizations with a comprehensive, future-proof IT solution having an agile data infrastructure that helps them move toward 100% data center virtualization and get the most out of their virtual server environment.
Our advanced storage virtualization capabilities supplement the cost effectiveness and resource consolidation offered by server virtualization while mitigating the risks of evolving to an end-to-end shared IT infrastructure.

DQ: How are you rebalancing your provision of data center services, colocation, and capacity management?

Krithiwas Neelakantan: A crisis of this scale calls for businesses to relook at their existing protocols and facilities and identify opportunities to fine-tune their infrastructure. The future demands that we support and empower our workforce to keep their productivity high – and extend our businesses to our customers in a smooth digitized manner.

We have capacity management analytic solutions, that help gain visibility into IT utilization, so that teams can manage capacity and efficiently dispense capital. Our OnCommand Insight makes it easy by providing a global view of the storage infrastructure. So, one can track data infrastructure usage in multiple geographic locations simultaneously, monitor hybrid cloud capacity, performance, and cost trends. It can also help align costs with service levels and leverage a centralized view into historical trends to forecast performance and capacity requirements.

NetApp has a geographically dispersed global support team made up of multiple technical response centers across the globe, and in addition, we leverage third-party certified resources from multiple vendors around the world for onsite support as needed. Our support organization is agile, resilient, and globally dispersed to ensure we have the necessary coverage.

DQ: How are you updating DR plans to reflect this new world of vendor-distributed work?

Krithiwas Neelakantan: Our disaster recovery plans are broadly based on the three pillars of business continuity:

Understanding if infrastructure is ready for the next 30 days: Proactively protect and optimize hybrid cloud infrastructure with a range of tools that can give enterprise complete visibility into their infrastructure—both on the public cloud and on-premises. For e.g. NetApp Active IQ delivers AI-driven insights into the health of all NetApp systems, including new predictive risk models for systems that are reaching performance or capacity limits

Supporting remote workers: Helping enterprises roll out new remote work policies, by helping them build and deploy cloud-based EUC and VDI to improve the performance and scalability of on-premises VDI infrastructure.

Ensuring that data and applications are available and performing: We can help organizations rationalize their data and application infrastructure, move data between on-premises storage and cloud, and help ensure data availability across clouds.

DQ: Are you looking at remote management of data centers?

Krithiwas Neelakantan: The substantial increase in data and the speed at which businesses operate today mean that manual monitoring, troubleshooting, and remediation is too slow to be effective and can put businesses at risk. Here, automation can make day-two operations almost autonomous.

Data center automation is immensely valuable as it frees up human computational time and delivers insight into server nodes and configurations. It also automates routine procedures like updating, patching, and reporting. Data center automation helps produce and program all data center scheduling and monitoring tasks as well as enforces regulation of standards and policies.

We are providing remote support to sites that do not permit physical access. Our Technical Support Center is providing a robust 24/7 support with 11 centers around the world. Our Business Continuity Plan is designed to provide a seamless remote or work-from-home capability for our support teams. Our onsite capabilities continue to operate, except in areas where official restrictions are in place that prevent a field engineer from physically accessing a customer or partner site.

Covid-19 has pushed enterprises to rethink their data center management techniques. With the demand for data at an all-time high because of remote working, cloud computing, VPN among others, the flexibility to bounce back in a contingency for a data center is of utmost and critical need of the hour. Moving forward, we can expect a lot of interest around automation of data center infrastructure management for monitoring and measuring of data center utilization

DQ: Demand for cloud services will soar in some sectors, but wither in other verticals. Which sectors, specifically?

Krithiwas Neelakantan: The whole demand for cloud services is built on agility, scale, and simplicity. Industries are bound to benefit from cloud services in the current situation. While Covid-19 has taught us to deliver services to any device/customers sitting anywhere, cloud is the best go-to model when it comes to execution.

In this current scenario, we have seen the surge in adoption of hybrid cloud model, in education, healthcare, BFSI, public sector, retail and agri-tech sectors. This is primarily because of two reasons: flexibility and scalability. A hybrid cloud approach aligns to a dynamic environment and lets enterprises match their actual data management requirements to the public cloud, private cloud, or on-premises resources that are best able to handle them.

Similarly, we are witnessing dynamic workloads due to huge demand spikes. A hybrid model approach is ideal as it will allow enterprises to easily scale public cloud for dynamic workloads, while leaving less volatile, or more sensitive, workloads to a private cloud or on-premises data center.

DQ: How are CIOs looking at datacenters in/post Covid-19?

Krithiwas Neelakantan: Increasingly, CIOs are looking to drive value for their business. The pandemic is an interesting inflection point for CIOs to recraft their IT plans in a hybrid cloud environment. The key is to align IT with functional and operational benefits which includes, rebooting data center strategy and ensure agility, scalability, and security in a true hybrid environment.

The current circumstances have put the spotlight on the need for a proper data management policy for enterprises. For a CIO, disaster recovery and data protection will be major factors in data management policy. It is pertinent to ensure responsive, uninterrupted experiences with key enterprise applications (such as Oracle Database, SAP HANA, Microsoft SQL Server, MongoDB, and new AI workloads). Powerful data management softwares will deliver the industry’s highest performance, superior flexibility, and best-in-class data services and cloud integration.

Fast and efficient array-based data replication for backup, disaster recovery, and data mobility solutions will be in the forefront of data protection by implementing two physically separate, mirrored clusters. Enterprises and specifically CIOs will need to deploy data management solutions on the prem and in the cloud. This will enable simplified data management across the hybrid cloud environment.

Organizations can move data to all their main public clouds, and then move it back to on premises, helping build a robust disaster recovery architecture.

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